Lynn Parsons is an author and educator who specializes in special education. She has many years of experience and currently working on a Ph.D. She is also the mother of grown children, so she's seen the trajectory of childhood to adulthood up close.
I found her post quite thought provoking and helpful. I am not a crisis parent. But I also see that I have some tendencies in this direction that I ought to address--nothing major, but some adjustments are in order in my own parenting, I think. At any rate--here you go. Thanks, Lynn!
I’m the mother of four grown children with two grandsons and two granddaughters due any minute. I’ve spent twelve years working in public schools at all levels. I’m now an educational diagnostician, which means I test children for special education services and run the Individual Education Plan meetings.
I’ve worked with great parents, and some who couldn’t quite figure out why their children wouldn’t listen to them. The problem is what I’ve called crisis parenting.
After working for seven years as a high school special education teacher and three in a junior high, I’ve had lots of opportunity to observe many parenting styles. I’ve seen all kinds. The crisis parents are the ones who scare me.
Having a good relationship with your teen begins when he or she is a baby. Fortunate infants learn that they can cry to express their needs and their parent will respond. Even if you just check on them and put them back to bed, it’s a response. This is when they learn they can depend on their caregivers.
Then they become toddlers who are warned about danger, had their boo-boos kissed, and are cuddled when upset. It’s all part of the process. You may think they’re too young to remember, but the feelings and relationship remain long after the incidents are forgotten.
Children are still pretty cute during the elementary years. It’s fun to go watch their soccer games and praise their artwork while attending parent night at school. The newness of family activities hasn’t worn off yet. Most parents keep in the loop at this point.
Middle and high school are the times when many parents fall off the radar. They become busy with their own activities. A few have no choice because they are working two jobs to keep the family afloat. Others cease to value family time. Because their children are no longer small, they put themselves on automatic pilot.
Because crisis parents are not monitoring their child on a regular basis, many things slip past. Grades start to fail. The student may begin to skip school or have run-ins with the law. Their friends are not the best-behaved kids. Teachers call and there is no response.
It takes police involvement, threat of expulsion, or failing a grade to get the attention of a crisis parent. Then they come swooping in, issuing demands and orders, none of which are taken seriously. If you don’t take the time to parent when times are good and give help when needed, the child feels like you have given up your right to parent. It doesn’t matter if you have or not, that’s how it feels.
How do I identify a crisis parent?
· Their phone number has changed, and the school wasn’t notified.
· They have no idea of their child’s classes or grades.
· They don’t know the names of their child’s friends and contact information.
· Their child has radically changed how he or she dresses—this is an attempt to find a replacement family because they’re rejecting their parents. Groups like skaters and Goths are easy to join because all it takes is a new wardrobe.
What can you do to keep from becoming a crisis parent?
· Schedule a regular family night. If something important comes up, like an illness, reschedule.
· Take time to sit down with them right after activities. The next morning is too late—your window of opportunity has slammed shut.
· Talk in the car. You can ban electronics during the ride—you are the parent. I talked to my girls about boys at a drive-in restaurant. It’s private, they were too lazy to walk home in the Texas heat, and I ordered anything they wanted. Everything goes down better with sugar, fat, and salt.
· Value the opinion of your child as you listen. If you respect them, they’ll respect you. My older daughter told me that disappointing a parent is the worst thing that can happen to a “good kid”.
· Take time with your children. The days pass slowly, but the years quickly, and they’re gone. All you’ll have left is your relationship.
Read more about Lynn and her work at her blog.